More than 200 individuals have been awarded the highest honor from The Walt Disney Company. Disney Legends are people whose contributions to the corporation extend from music and animation, to design and acting. The group only inducts a handful of folks every couple of years now. In light of the most recent collection of inductees, such as composer Danny Elfman, soap star Susan Lucci, and artist Andreas Deja, I started to ponder who should be the next set of honorees.
Here are six people who deserve to be named Disney Legends.
A man who started out playing a cross-dressing businessman on ABC’s short-lived Bosom Buddies, Tom Hanks would become one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed personalities. Splash, Touchstone’s first production in 1984, was Hanks’ first starring vehicle in cinema and his initial notable project for Disney. Later came the buddy comedy Turner & Hooch – perhaps best known for its drooling dog – and more recently playing Walt Disney himself in Saving Mr. Banks. But everyone knows and adores Hanks for voicing an enduring favorite character: Woody. As the voice of the Toy Story cowboy, Hanks used improvisation to his favor in a masterful role that few other actors have been able to replicate when solely speaking behind a microphone. Hanks is a Disney Legend in my eyes, and should be viewed in that manner to the committee responsible for naming future inductees.
After years of working the comedy circuit, Ellen DeGeneres attained fame for playing a version of herself on the ABC sitcom that ran for five seasons. DeGeneres garnered multiple Emmy nominations for her role as the everyday bookstore businesswoman with a relatable sense of humor. Her controversial “coming out” episode was a turning point for television and DeGeneres’ career, which sadly stalled for a few years. But returning to fame for voicing an unforgettable fish with short-term memory loss changed all that. Dory, the breakout star of Finding Nemo, and the star of her own film in the sequel Finding Dory, delivers some of the sweetest and most hilarious quotes in animation. DeGeneres is to thank for that. We also appreciate DeGeneres’ Disney-related contributions for starring in the grand Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot and hosting the Academy Awards on ABC. She’s a delight through and through. DeGeneres should be a Disney Legend soon enough.
When you think of some of the best Disney animated films during the ’90s renaissance, a few names should come to mind. Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice are to music as Don Hahn (not yet named a Disney Legend) is to the production. Though Hahn’s career with Disney began in the late 1970s, come the 1990s, it took off through serving as a producer for Beauty and the Beast (the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture) and The Lion King. His work has extended from producing many of the Disneynature productions to authoring many great Disney books. He is a constant friend to the Disney fan community and continues to work for the company in many capacities. Hahn should be at the point of being bestowed the Disney Legend honor.
ABC News personalities, including the late Peter Jennings, Roone Arledge, and Barbara Walters, have all been named Disney Legends. When will Diane Sawyer join them? An accomplished investigative journalist and steadfast anchor, Sawyer came to ABC News in 1989 to co-host Primetime Live with Sam Donaldson and soon contributed reports to many programs. She and Charlie Gibson re-launched Good Morning America in 1999, later joined by Robin Roberts, giving the morning show quality content and a comfortable presence. More recently Sawyer anchored World News for five years and is known for scoring the “big interviews.” A dynamite journalist and a major player for ABC News, Sawyer should obtain Disney Legend status.
From playing the multifaceted Califia, the Queen on California, in the former Golden Dreams attraction at Disney California Adventure Park to voicing the wisecracking Shenzi in The Lion King, Whoopi Goldberg’s roles for the company have been as diverse as her acting range. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her turn in the first Sister Act film for Touchstone, later becoming a top-paid actress for starring in its sequel. Goldberg currently moderates The View, in which she has shared hot topics with former host and Disney Legend Barbara Walters. Making an indelible impact on the company, Whoopi Goldberg would be a fine and most worthy addition to the Disney Legends club.
The face of the development of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of the most ambitious theme parks ever created, Joe Rohde is the man to thank for designing such an exquisite and intricate environment. In addition to laying the foundation for the park, he was also instrumental to the creation of Expedition Everest and the forthcoming Pandora: The World of Avatar. His contributions outside of the animal-themed utopia include having designed the Aulani resort in Hawaii and the former Adventurers Club in Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney. He puts his heart and soul into his projects, characteristics found in many Disney Legends.
Who do you think should be a Disney Legend? Share your thoughts.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, debuting on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.